It’s been a long time since the Bayou Butcher slugged his hatchet through the marshes of this spooky Louisiana territory, but make no mistake – this is his swamp, and if you listen real hard, you can still hear Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) on the wind at night, crying for his daddy. What began as a prank gone wrong on the local shut-in eventually evolved into an endless bloodbath that would last for generations, long after Crowley was tormented by the neighborhood kids, and burned alive in his own home as his helpless father frantically tried to save him from the flames. Now, trapped in a supernatural loop, Crowley is cursed to forever roam the woods at night, tearing down anyone who dare cross his path, and leaving a trail of tangled bloody body parts in his wake. Only those foolish enough to not heed the warning of this legend would take it upon themselves to step onto Hatchetface’s land, or those greedy enough to try to make a buck off of his family’s misery, but no matter the reason, whoever wanders into the muddy waters of this swamp will soon live to regret their actions, for once you set sight upon the wicked mutated face of Victor Crowley, you become witness to the pain of the fury of his blade.
Ten years ago writer/director Adam Green burst onto the scene with a little independent horror movie called Hatchet, and the genre was forever changed. Finally, a worthy slasher villain had come along for the first time in years to stand proudly alongside the likes of legendary icons Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees and Leatherface, someone with a proper mythology and kill count and what would soon become a loyal fan base that cried out for more installments. A hardcore horror fan himself, Adam Green set out to create a character as timeless and the genre gems he grew up loving, and he succeeded in waves. Hatchet made the festival rounds, snatching up audience awards and winning fans over in screening after screening, even conjuring up a little following dubbed the “Hatchet Army”, all before eventually being sold to Anchor Bay Entertainment back in Hollywood, California. It all started with a boy from Massachusetts with a dream and ended with his hopes and aspirations becoming reality.
As the original story goes, a sweet little boy named Victor Crowley was born terribly disfigured, so much in fact that his father kept him hidden away from public eye for many years, as they hid out together in their little cabin in the woods. The locals came to believe that the boy was a monster, and began pulling pranks on him, like knocking on his windows, calling him names, and eventually throwing fire crackers into his house to try to get him to come outside so they could get a good look at him. Unfortunately, one of these fire crackers caught flame in Crowley’s wooden abode, and it wasn’t long before the entire place lit up and was engulfed in fire, while Victor maniacally ran back and forth inside, trying to get out. The door was stuck, so when his father arrived, he tried desperately to hack it open with his hatchet, only to accidentally hit his own son in the process, who, unbeknownst to him, was standing directly on the other side of the door. His little boy died that day, but he was soon reborn into a cycle of vengeance which would last all of eternity, as the immortal spirit of Victor Crowley hacked and slashed his way through his slimy swamp, crying out into the night for his daddy.
Through the years, a multitude of people made the mistake of wandering into Crowley’s swamp, including short-sighted fisherman Sampson Dunstan (Robert Englund), and a haunted tour group which held innocent patrons Jim and Shannon Permatteo (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo) and lovesick puppy Ben (Joel David Moore) and his slightly annoyed best friend Marcus (Deon Richmond). Later, wildlife hunters tried their hand at capturing the monster, including Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd), Layton (AJ Bowen), Vernon (Colton Dunn) and Bob (Tom Holland), before foolish law figures Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan) and Hawes (Derek Mears) tried to bring the madman down, while all the time sweet little Marybeth Dunstan (Amara Zaragoza/Danielle Harris) just tried to bring her massacred family back home – and to bury that hatchet deep into Crowley’s face, of course. But no matter who trudged through the muck and the mire of this knee high southern grass, they all wound up dismembered, ripped apart, their body parts flown with a red spattered fury against the nearest tree. All of them, that is, except for lone survivor and paramedic Andrew (Parry Shen).
Now, ten years later, in Green’s latest entry to the series, Hatchet 4 a.k.a. Victor Crowley, Andrew is back to tell his side of the story with his new book simply titled ‘I, Survivor’. The movie begins with Andrew’s humiliation as he goes on his ex-wife Sabrina’s (Krystal Joy Brown) talk show to discuss his latest literary endeavor, and, of course, eventually sees Andrew returning to the scene where it all began, as he’s promised a ton of money to do an interview in the swamp where all of those murders took place so many years ago. What Andrew doesn’t know is that he and his camera crew aren’t the only ones returning to the scene of the crime. A group of amateur filmmakers (Katie Booth, Chase Williamson, Laura Ortiz) have also made their way out to Honey Island Swamp in the hopes of making a successful mock trailer, one which will hopefully give them the funding they need to make a slasher about the real life events of this historical Louisiana tragedy. Sadly, in their attempt to capture a frame of the past, they wind up bringing the dead back to life, as the spirit of Victor Crowley is once again set loose upon the world, and the blood of the innocent are sprayed wildly once more from the cold grip of his trusty hatchet.
Is sure is nice to see Crowley back in form again. As a longtime fan of Green and the Hatchet series, I can tell anyone else who has enjoyed the franchise as much as I have that you will not be disappointed with the latest entry. Blood spews, bodies are hacked and stacked, and Victor looks taller and more menacing than ever before. This series has always been a devious little delight, one which succeeds because of its dedication to practical effects and in camera blood work, but also because these movies have always felt like they were made by a horror movie fan. There’s no Hollywood big shot here strategically trying to maneuver the best possible way to bring crowds to the theaters in droves in order to cash in on the biggest possible payday. That’s not what Green’s about. These movies are made with love – love pulled straight from the chest of a wounded victim like a still beating heart, but love nonetheless, and anyone who is a true fan of the genre can feel that love when they sit down to watch these films. Hatchet 4, a.k.a. Victor Crowley is no different. It’s just Adam Green getting back to basics – holding back on the some of the mythology as he quickly skims over the details during the opening credits (he knows by now we all know the story) and instead focusing on the gore, and turning the fourth installment into a straight slasher that feels more like the original in tone and execution. It’s a fine return to form, and anyone who has enjoyed the three previous films will undoubtedly get a kick out of this one, too.
Sure, they spend a little too much time on the plane, and it would’ve been nice to see some of the more human characters last a bit longer during the runtime (cough Chase Williamson cough), but it’s not very often that the genre is gifted with a newer franchise that feels as fun and experimental and long lasting as the Halloween or Friday the 13th films, and in all honesty, it’s just nice to have a series in the same iconic style as the older examples that we can count on to carry us through the years of big studio films and over produced predictable cash grabs. It’s nice to have a horror icon we can trust to at least entertain us, and we’ve found that in Victor Crowley and Adam Green’s Hatchet films. This journalist is personally ready and willing for as many entries as Green is willing to spill out, and is looking forward to whatever Green and his team can conjure up next.